File Photo: Sherdog.com
UFC 114 should have come with a “decision fest” tagline. Not since UFC 109 in February had a Zuffa pay-per-view event featured so many bouts that went the distance. Not all fights that go to the judges are poor in nature, but that was the case more often than not on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Analysis follows for the five main card bouts at UFC 114.
John Hathaway def. Diego Sanchez -- Unanimous Decision
What happened: Entering the fight, Sanchez -- “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner and former lightweight title contender -- was the heavy favorite to take out the talented but untested Hathaway. Whether one wants to point to his one-sided loss to B.J. Penn or Sanchez’s taking the 22-year-old London Shootfighters standout lightly, he looked nothing like the man who put forth great performances the last two years, as he was outclassed by Hathaway. “The Hitman” displayed fantastic takedown defense and used his long reach to rack up the points against Sanchez. A first-round knee strike and subsequent ground-and-pound from Hathaway had the former King of the Cage champion on the brink of being finished.
Forecast for Hathaway: The win over Sanchez was a true coming out party for the undefeated Englishman. However, the victory also ensures no one will take him lightly in the future. Hathaway could return at the UFC’s next United Kingdom event against Dong Hyun Kim, Mike Swick or the winner of the June 12 bout between Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald.
Forecast for Sanchez: He has a lot of soul-searching to do. Still only 28, Sanchez needs to ask himself which weight class holds the best future for him. “Nightmare” should seriously consider dropping down to lightweight again. With a Kenny Florian rematch and other potential fights against former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk or Jim Miller, plenty of exciting options exist for him at 155 pounds.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira def. Jason Brilz -- Split Decision
What happened: Despite taking the fight on just three and a half weeks notice, Brilz put up a considerable battle against Nogueira. As expected, Nogueira held the edge in the boxing and grappling departments, but Brilz landed a couple of nice takedowns and even threatened with a tight second-round guillotine choke. Nogueira, though he looked exhausted entering the third stanza, came back for more. He delivered several sweeps from the bottom and trapped Brilz in a crucifix, which ultimately proved to be enough to win a judges decision.
Forecast for Nogueira: Had he won more decisively, Nogueira might have been second in line for a shot at Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s light heavyweight title. This workmanlike victory leaves him with some uncertainty. The promotion may make an effort to put together the Nogueira-Forrest Griffin bout for a second time. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Ryan Bader would also make excellent opponents for the 33-year-old Pride Fighting Championships veteran.
Forecast for Brilz: The Omaha, Neb.-based light heavyweight deserves another shot at a big-name opponent after stepping up and delivering the goods against the world-ranked Brazilian. Cyrille Diabate, Thiago Silva and Brandon Vera look like good fits for him down the road.
Mike Russow def. Todd Duffee -- KO (Punch) 2:32 R3
What happened: Russow did not actively participate for much of the bout, other than making a nice semi-stationary target for the various boxing combinations of the hyped Duffee. In the first round, Duffee gave his opponent a heavy beating; Russow had to thank his strong chin he was still in the fight after the first five minutes. Duffee tried coasting in the next two rounds, but, midway through the third, Russow cracked his rhythm and clocked him with a right hook that turned out the lights.
Forecast for Russow: He may not have a poster boy body or fighting style, but Russow gets the job done. The come-from-behind win over Duffee was his ninth consecutive victory. It would make sense to give Russow a shot at somebody like Gabriel Gonzaga, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson or Ben Rothwell.
Forecast for Duffee: Despite the result, there was a lot to like about Duffee’s performance. His combinations, agility and explosiveness were nothing short of spectacular for a heavyweight of his size. The 24-year-old needs to work heavily on his conditioning and his ground game and match them to the level of his boxing skills. Bouts against Pat Barry, Jon Madsen or “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub might be in his immediate future.
Michael Bisping def. Dan Miller -- Unanimous Decision
What happened: Miller did not shy away from standing with Bisping, who landed more strikes throughout the bout without doing any significant damage. As the Brit started to find his range in the second stanza and landed some big shots, one had to wonder why Miller, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, did not try to move the action to the mat with more urgency. The 28-year-old former International Fight League champion finally secured a takedown midway through the third round, but Bisping easily wall walked out of danger.
Forecast for Bisping: It lacked the flare of some of Bisping’s other performances inside the Octagon, but “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner delivered when he needed to, even though he had to go the distance for the fifth time in his last nine fights. Where does “The Count” go from here? A Bisping-Alan Belcher fight would promise fireworks, along with a matchup with Alessio Sakara. Since Belcher and Sakara are already booked, Bisping seems more likely to face someone like Nate Quarry next.
Forecast for Miller: He has become a gatekeeper in the UFC middleweight division. After starting his UFC career with three consecutive victories, he has now suffered three straight defeats. If the promotion does not want to risk burying his career, it should pair him with someone like Nick Catone, Tim Credeur or C.B. Dollaway.
Rashad Evans def. Quinton Jackson -- Unanimous Decision
What happened: The grudge match with “Rampage” played out in much the same fashion as Evans’ fight against Thiago Silva in January. For two rounds, he used his movement on the feet, his wrestling and his wall-and-stall to control the pace and whereabouts of the match. In the third stanza, Rampage shot him down with a short right hook. Jackson, who stars as B.A. Baracus in the forthcoming “A-Team” movie, could not put away his rival with ground-and-pound and went on to lose a unanimous decision.
Forecast for Evans: He will get a second shot at UFC gold when he faces champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua sometime in 2010, perhaps in the UFC 119 main event at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in September. Indianapolis stands just 250 miles from Evans’ old stomping grounds in Lansing, Mich.
Forecast for Jackson: The last time “Rampage” lost a decision inside the Octagon he came back with a vicious knockout over Wanderlei Silva. His next opponent better brace himself. As a former champion in his prime, it only makes sense for Jackson to fight other elite light heavyweights. That narrows down the list to Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.